By Sam Pollan, ’14
The conclusion of our South Africa adventure was bittersweet. After spending several weeks sharing my pictures and experiences with friends and family, looking back on the conference and the incredible experience of walking through rooms with such noteworthy people, it was sad for that series of events to conclude. The same goes for my time in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. We met some truly amazing people who devote their lives to helping others, and do an incredible job. While the work was hard, the reward was worthy: an incomparable experience on the other side of the planet.
While the COP was very interesting and entertaining, it was exceedingly difficult to constantly listen to countries avoid responsibility for their actions and put off necessary work even further. The EU Roadmap, essentially a promise to promise to do something eventually, was one of the most notable accomplishments of the conference. This result, although expected, still puts a damper on hopes for solving the problem of global climate change.
The positive aspect of the negative results of the conference, however, is that, in my opinion, it made our work in the Valley more meaningful. It was nice to finally stop talking hypotheticals and future treaties and be able to help those that need the assistance. I have travelled to several countries and done some form of community service in most of them. None, however, come close to as emotional of an experience as working with Makaphutu and Lily of the Valley. The people running those programs are remarkable and it was a gift to work with them. Overall, the trip has been an unparalleled adventure covering everything from international politics to community aid and I am grateful that I was presented with the opportunity to participate in this program.